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Easter Sunday carnage: Cardinal reiterates possibility of grand plot

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Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, delivering a Special Message at St. Anthony’s Shrine, Kochchikade, Kotahena to commemorate the third anniversary of the Easter Sunday Attack, said yesterday that there had been a plot to ensure that the attacks took place.

“That the attempt made by the then President of Sri Lanka to prevent the arrest of Zahran Hashim and his group had played a big role in ensuring that the attacks did take place. The story of the arrest of the Deputy Inspector General of Police, who had even obtained an arrest warrant on Zahran, makes us wonder whether there was a plot to ensure that the attacks happened.

The cardinal said that they had been compelled to ask St. Anthony to help them get at the truth concerning the attacks.

He said it was clear that the people who carried out those attacks were some misguided radical Muslim youth who did not understand the noble message of the Prophet Mohammed.

“Yet, as time goes, it is becoming clearer and we have

confirmation about it from what the former Attorney General, Dappula de Livera stated to a journalist of News First on 07 May 2021, that there was a “grand conspiracy” behind this deed of terror and that there was probably a political plot behind it.”

Given below are excerpts of the Cardinal’s speech: “Our suspicions on this matter have been confirmed by several factors, which include the following:

“1) That the Parliamentary Select Committee, which came out with its study and report of these attacks, mentioned in its Executive Summary that there are indications of an attempt by those responsible for intelligence to somehow hide the true facts of the case and to simply attribute it to Zahran Hashim and his group.

“2) That the attempt made by the then President of Sri Lanka to somehow prevent the arrest of Zahran Hashim and his group and the discouragement of attempts by the Police to get them arrested, played a big role in ensuring that the attacks did take place. The story of the arrest of the Deputy Inspector General of Police, who had even obtained an arrest warrant on Zahran, is un-understandable, unless, we posit a possible plot to somehow ensure that the attacks do go ahead. The attempts by the security service authorities to callously ignore the information they had concerning the training camp and the collection of explosives as well as firearms found at Wanathavilluwa in Puttalam, made the attacks a reality.

“3) That the four warnings given by the Indian Intelligence Service to the Security Officers of the Police and the Intelligence Services, were completely downplayed and ignored without any information being given to the public about these and thus making the public undefended and exposed to the attacks. Indeed, what is most surprising is that the security officers circulated among themselves a confidential letter to warn each other, while not giving this information to the general public. Thus the general public became exposed to these attacks.

“Why was that kind of policy followed by people in responsible positions, is a question which has not received a clear answer. The attempt made by some security officials to get the attacks accepted by ISIS as something they had organized, when it was clear that even ISIS did not know about it, is also another mystery. So, the question can be asked, why the security officers were interested in getting ISIS to claim responsibility for something they didn’t even know about. Were they trying to hide someone else who was behind all this?

“4) That the former president of Sri Lanka left the island without appointing an acting Defence Minister and leaving the entire situation exposed and the expectation in some quarters that these attacks might create inter-communal violence. Indeed 6000 swords had been imported and distributed to Muslim homes and Mosques in order to arm them with those means of self-defense. Thus, there was the expectation of violence! Who permitted these swords which are offensive weapons is also an unanswered question. Normally a Ministry of Defence clearance should have been obtained. This would have been part of the plot, which fortunately did not happen due to our insisting with the affected parties that they should not react violently towards the Muslims. We are deeply apprehensive of this act of omission by the former President. Why did he do that is yet another unanswered question.

“5) That on two other occasions after the Easter bombings, some extremist groups close to the present regime in Sri Lanka and inimical to the Muslims tried to provoke communal violence between the Sinhalese and the Muslims was again a politically motivated provocation.

“6) That the present government continuously refuses to carry out the recommendations of the Presidential Commission Report with regard to the prosecution of some of the top level political and security as well as intelligence officers for criminal neglect of duty in the matter. We have to sincerely ask why they are taking that attitude. In the case of several of these top officers, the prosecution has been so poorly handled that even the cases that have been filed against them by the previous government have been dismissed by the courts. So we see a spirit of collaboration between the existing government and the Attorney General’s Department to treat these cases in a slip shod manner.

“Typical was the recent release of the former Defence Secretary and the Inspector General of Police who were acquitted and discharged whereas, on a visit to the Shrine after the attacks, the then Defence Secretary did state: “We knew about these attacks beforehand but did not think these would be so extensive.” Besides, the attitude of the present Inspector General of Police from whom we have repeatedly asked to implement the recommendations of the Commission and to conduct internal inquiries against some of the officers working under him who have been recommended for prosecution by the Presidential Commission and his giving most of these officers’ promotions instead is highly suspicious. This we consider as an insult added to the injury caused to our people.

“Besides, there are different elements in the Presidential Commission report and information provided by some others that are recommended or need to be investigated further. Yet, no such investigations have been conducted up to now. Given this entire situation, we see that an attempt has been made to somehow lay the blame only on the radical elements of the Islamic community while protecting all the others who have had something to do with these attacks, either in the manner of direct involvement or in the manner of not carrying out their duties to prevent them. Needless to say, that the toll was heavy with the loss of 269 precious lives, out of which 47 foreigners from 14 different countries and the rest, all Sri Lankans of different linguistic and religious groups and 500 injured, some with lifelong disabilities. The erroneous way in which selective carrying out of the recommendations have been done, is another indication of manipulation of the whole attempt to get the truth- and seeking to only show the responsibility of the Islamic component of these attacks and trying to hide the rest of the facts deliberately.

“We wish to conclude this by quoting a section from the Executive Summary of the Parliamentary Select Committee Report which indicates a possibility of a grand plot as mentioned by the former Attorney General.

“[I quote] “The PSC makes a very serious finding in terms of the status of the state intelligence apparatus, where intelligence information known to a few was not shared with relevant parties. The PSC also observes that further investigations will be needed to understand whether those with vested interests did not act on intelligence so as to create chaos and instill fear and uncertainty in the country in the lead up to the Presidential Election to be held later in the year. Such a situation would then lead to the call for a change of regime to contain such acts of terrorism. Coincidently or not so coincidentally, the security situation and fear would be unleashed months away from the Presidential Election.” [p.3 Executive Summary Parliamentary Select Committee Report].

Until we are satisfied that a transparent and just inquiry is conducted by all parties concerned and the truth is discovered with regard to the responsibility for these attacks, the Catholic Community in Sri Lanka will not be satisfied with the way things are happening and we reject all attempts to mislead us in this matter. We want, especially, the international community which has also suffered as a result of the loss of lives of some of their citizens to pressure the government of Sri Lanka and ensure that justice is meted out to these innocent people who lost their lives in these attacks.”



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PM blames ‘last administration’ for country’s current crisis

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Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe told Sky News that “the last administration is to blame” for the country’s current crisis.Protesters have clashed with police in Sri Lanka’s capital, Colombo, as people demanded the resignation of the President and new Prime Minister.Demonstrations in the capital have been ongoing for the last two months as the public blames the country’s leadership for corruption and mishandling the economy.The Prime Minister said that the last administration “ran down the economy”.

“We have come to a point where we are bankrupt – which has never happened to Sri Lanka before,” he said in an interview with Sky News following his controversial appointment last week.

“We have no dollars, we have no rupees.”

On whether the President should resign, the veteran politician said it’s a “controversy” as the country is of split opinion.He added: “I suggested that after Sri Lanka passes the 21st amendment, the country should restore the original 19th amendment strengthening parliament – strengthening the powers of the prime minister.

“Then, all party leaders and the president should have a discussion and come to some arrangement on the future.”

Meanwhile, the recent unrest across the country has been sparked amid the country’s worst economic crisis since independence from Britain in 1948, which has been blamed on a combination of COVID, rising oil prices and populist tax cuts by the president and his brother, until recently the prime minister.

“I can understand the anguish of the protesters – the young and the old,” Mr Wickremesinghe said.

“The young who see their future being taken away, and the old, who are suffering, the middle class, who see their lifestyle collapsing… farmers without fertiliser.

“There are many demonstrations outside police stations, petrol stations and other places. And it shows the anger, the despair, and the hopelessness that the people feel.”

He said that people, at the moment, “can’t bear the burden any longer”.

“We are certainly not in a very stable position,” he said.

Police have now arrested more than 800 people nationwide who are accused of ransacking property, looting and setting fire to MPs’ houses on 9 May.But human rights lawyers say in some cases police are jailing people who were out on the streets watching what was happening, rather than actively taking part in violence.The prime minister went on to say that the country faces a possibility of a food crisis due to the lack of fertiliser.Sri Lanka is near bankruptcy after announcing it had suspended up to $7bn (£5.6bn) in foreign loans due to be repaid this year because of a foreign currency crisis.It has led to limited imports with no gas in petrol stations. Other fuel, cooking gas, medicine and foods are in short supply forcing people to stay in long lines to buy the limited stocks.

“We are feeling the rise in the price of fuel – and we know it will go higher,” he said.

“Our main concern also is that we have not had fertiliser for cultivation, and this coming season, the rice cultivation season will not have the full production.

“Therefore from about August onwards, there is a possibility of a food crisis in Sri Lanka. That’s about the time when the global food crisis will also take place, and we will see how we will survive until about March next year.” – Sky News

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SJB, FSP agree on common agenda

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Focus on abolition of Executive Presidency

BY SHMAINDRA FERNANDO

SJB MP Kabir Hashim, MP, says the main Opposition party and the Frontline Socialist Party (FSP) have recently agreed on the abolition of the Executive Presidency.Hashim yesterday (20) told The Island that they agreed on empowering Parliament at the expense of the Executive President.The SJB and FSP delegations met at the Opposition Leader’s Office at , Sir Marcus Fernando Mawatha this week. The SJB delegation consisted of lawmakers, General Secretary Ranjith Madduma Bandara, Kabir Hashim, Eran Wickremaratne and Mujubur Rahuman whereas the FSP was represented by Central Committee members, Pubudu Jagoda and Duminda Nagamuwa.The SJB, offshoot of the UNP, secured the recognition of the Election Commission in Feb 2020 while the FSP is yet to be registered as a political party.

Lawmaker Hashim said that the SJB was keen to discuss the current situation with all political parties represented in Parliament and out as part of the overall efforts to reach agreement on a common programme.Referring to the proposals made by the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) to resolve the political crisis that would be a prerequisite for addressing the economic downturn, lawmaker Hashim said that the SJB and the FSP agreed on the need for President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to agree on a timeline for him to step-down.Responding to The Island queries, one-time UNP Chairman said that the SJB could work together with the FSP on both political and economic issues. The talks took place amidst the FSP, the breakaway faction of the JVP, was consolidating its position as the spearhead of the ongoing protest campaign meant to force President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to step down.

MP Hashim said that they agreed to prepare a document meant for future cooperation. Asked whether they have scheduled another meeting with the FSP, the Kegalle District MP said that they were keen to prepare a working document before they next meet for talks.The top SJB spokesperson said that in spite of swearing in UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe as the Prime Minister, the President was on a difficult wicket.Lawmaker Hashim said the SJB was also engaged in talks with the JVP though the deliberations weren’t at official level. “We are proceeding with efforts to finalize a common agenda meant to restore normalcy. We had talks with the BASL, industry leaders as well as civil society,” MP Hashim said.Asked whether the SJB had met Premier Wickremesinghe or sought a meeting with him, MP Hashim said that when Dr. Harsha de Silva raised a spate of issues at hand, especially the recent hard default, the Premier assured the Parliament that party leaders would be fully briefed pertaining to the current situation.Lawmaker Hashim was referring to the first occasion Sri Lanka experienced a hard default as the grace period for the International Sovereign Bonds (ISB) Coupon payment lapsed on May 18. Last month Sri Lanka announced a pre-emptive negotiated default ofall outstanding debt as at April 12.On April 18 the ISB Coupon worth $ 78 million fell due and those had 30 days to obtain “Consent Solicitation” from all ISB holders for payment suspension by May 18.

FSP spokesperson Pubudu Jagoda told The Island that the party discussed the developing situation with some political parties, including the SJB and ’43 Brigade’ led by SJB MP Patali Champika Ranawaka. The FSP delegation comprised Central Committee members, Pubudu Jagoda, Duminda Nagamuwa and Sanjeewa Bandara. MP Patali Champika Ranawaka and Attorney-at-Law Shiral Lakthilake represented the ‘43 Brigade.’Jagoda said that the ’43 Brigade’ was of the view the executive presidential system should be retained with necessary amendments.According to Jagoda, the Eksath Samajawadi Pakshaya and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) agreed that the executive presidency should be abolished. FSP leader Kumar Gunaratnam and Pubudu Jagoda had represented the party whereas Jaffna District MP M.A. Sumanthiran, PC, and Shanakiyan Rasamanickam represented the TNA.

Jagoda said that the current environment was conducive for building a common agenda that could accommodate the vast majority of political parties represented in Parliament and other groups bent on abolishing the executive presidency.He emphasized the pivotal importance of a common response to what Jagoda termed the government crackdown in Colombo, its suburbs and the provinces where over 1,000 persons had been arrested by the police in connection with the ongoing investigations into mob assaults ignited following unprovoked attacks on those demanding the resignation of the President and the Premier.

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SJB, SLFP decry members switching sides as nine ministers are sworn in

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question all-party tag, allege moves to bribe lawmakers

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Two Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) lawmakers, Harin Fernando and Manusha Nanayakkara are among nine new Cabinet ministers sworn in yesterday (20).The swearing in ceremony took place at the President’s House as protests continued in front of the Presidential Secretariat demanding the resignation of President Rajapaksa.Two of the strongest critics of President Rajapaksa’s handling of investigations into the 2019 Easter Sunday massacre, the former UNP lawmakers joined the government following talks with UNP leader and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. UNP Leader and its National List member Wickremesinghe received the premiership on 12 May.

The SJB won 54 seats, including seven National Lists seats at the last general election.The SJB lawmakers visited Geneva in early March, 2022 at the beginning of the 49th session of the UNHRC, where Sri Lanka’s human rights record was strongly criticised. They had been also at the forefront of the SJB’s efforts to secure presidential pardon for ex-MP Ranjan Ramanayake, sentenced for contempt of court by the Supreme Court during the yahapalana administration.The other newly-appointed Cabinet ministers are Nimal Siripala de Silva (Ports, Shipping and Aviation), Susil Premjayantha (Education), Keheliya Rambukwella (Health), Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapkse, PC (Justice, Prisons, and Constitutional Reforms), Dr. Ramesh Pathirana (Plantations), Tiran Alles (Public Security) and Nalin Fernando (Trade, Commerce and Food Security). Except Tiran Alles who entered Parliament through the SLPP National List, others contested on the SLPP ticket.With the appointments made yesterday, the number of Cabinet ministers increased to 13. President Rajapaksa on May 14 swore in Prof. G.L. Peiris (Foreign Affairs), Dinesh Gunawardena (Home Affairs, Provincial Councils and Local Government), Kanchana Wijesekera (Power and Energy), and Prasanna Ranatunga (Urban Development and Housing). Except for MEP leader Dinesh Gunawardena, the rest are SLPP members. But, Gunawardena, too, contested the last general election on the SLPP ticket while his son, Yadamini was accommodated on the SLPP National List.

SJB General Secretary Ranjith Madduma Bandara and SLFP Senior President Prof. Rohana Lakshman yesterday told The Island that their parties were strongly opposed to their members accepting ministerial posts.Both said that they had assured President Rajapaksa and Premier Wickremesinghe of their support for government economic recovery efforts while being in the Opposition. Prof. Lakshman insisted that Nimal Siripala de Silva taking up ministerial portfolio was contrary to the understanding reached with the current dispensation.The SLFP won 14 seats, including one National List seat at the last general election.Of the 13 lawmakers sworn in as ministers, Tiran Alles and Nalin Fernando representing the SLPP entered the Cabinet for the first time.

Among those accommodated in the Cabinet was Wijeyadasa Rajapakse, who was overlooked by the SLPP when the appointment of the original 30-member cabinet in terms of the 19th Amendment took place. Since then Rajapakse has been campaigning for the abolition of the executive presidency and on more than one occasion flayed President Rajapaksa. The lawmaker, in January this year shot off a letter to Chinese President Xi Jinping urging him to stop Chinese economic invasion of Sri Lanka. In a 45-point letter to the Chinese leader, the lawmaker alleged that most of the Chinese funded projects had been wasteful and large commissions paid to the corrupt politicians and officials to secure such projects.After the 2020 general election which the SLFP won comfortably securing a 2/3rd majority in Parliament, MP Rajapakse refused to accept the State Ministry for Education. Susil Premjayantha, who accepted that ministry was sacked last early January this year within 24 hours after he criticised the government’s handling of the economy.

SLMC leader Rauff Hakeem on Thursday (19) accused the government of bribing Opposition lawmakers in a bid to secure their support. MP Hakeem questioned the government strategy while alleging that the original plan was to swear in a Cabinet of 15. Subsequently, the government planned a Cabinet of 18 and then they increased it to 22 ministers.PM Wickremesinghe assured Parliament on Thursday that members of the new Cabinet would not be entitled to minsterial salaries and perks.The Finance Minister has not been appointed. Ali Sabry, PC, served as the Finance Minister briefly after the removal of Basil Rajapaksa. Government efforts to persuade SJB’s Dr. Harsha de Silva, who is an economist to accept the finance portfolio have failed.

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